TORONTO, Sept. 30, 2017 — Army Spc. Stephanie Morris added a gold medal in discus, a silver in shot put and a bronze in hand cycle in the women’s track and field competition in her disability category here at the 2017 Invictus Games this week.
More than 550 wounded, ill and injured service members from 17 nations compete in 12 sporting events including archery, track and field, cycling, golf, sitting volleyball, swimming, wheelchair rugby and wheelchair basketball Sept. 23 to 30 as they are cheered on by thousands of family members, friends and spectators in the Distillery District here.
Morris, a truck driver stationed at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, Bethesda, Maryland, earned a gold medal in the women’s hand cycle in her category, a gold in wheelchair basketball, silver in sit volleyball and a bronze in shot put at the 2017 Department of Defense Warrior Games and gold medals in the shot put, discus, hand cycle and wheelchair basketball and a bronze in sit volleyball at the 2016 DoD Warrior Games.
Morris joined the Army to follow in her brother, Marcus Matlock’s, footsteps. “It’s something I’ve always wanted to do, and I always follow everything my brother does,” she said. Her brother served for 11 years as a communications sergeant.
Just 14 months after joining the Army as a truck driver, Morris was injured when her vehicle received indirect fire and two rocket-propelled grenades during a deployment to Bagram Air Base, Afghanistan, June 18, 2013.
As she went through more than 30 surgeries over three years, she made the decision in April 2016 to amputate her leg and on July 1, 2016, she had it amputated.
“At first, it was a hard to make the decision,” she said. “It was more mental for me and not knowing what to expect but when I made the decision, and it finally happened, it was like a big weight was lifted off my shoulders because I had been struggling for three years.”
She said her mother was hesitant for the amputation because she was scared for her. “She didn’t know what to expect and how I was going to react to it,” Morris said.
Throughout high school, Morris played basketball and tennis and ran track. As she started recovering at Walter Reed, her medical providers pushed her to give adaptive sports a try, she said. Since then, she said she feels like an athlete again and enjoys competing.
“It doesn’t matter whether she wins or loses, Stephanie just likes to compete,” Stephanie’s mom, Relda Bates, said. “The games have actually helped Stephanie. She was always into sports. Stephanie was always a competitor so having the games, the Warrior Games and the Invictus Games, is something that benefits Stephanie.”
Morris said the camaraderie among the competitors from the different service branches on Team U.S. as well as with the competitors from the other nations will last a lifetime. “Everyone wants to win but at the end of the day, you build bonds with these people regardless of where you come from,” she said. “We are all going through the same battles, and you build bonds with them. It’s going to go way past Warrior Games and way past the Invictus Games. These are the people we’re going to be able to call family or to reach out to when we have a problem.”
Morris said she hopes people who came out to watch the Invictus Games see how resilient the wounded, ill and injured service members from all branches and nations are.
“Some people are in a dark place when they come to these types of events but then they see everybody else, and it’s uplifting for them,” she said. “They realize how much stronger they are and realize how much more they can do or they do things they never thought they would be able to do. Adaptive sports is a big part of recovery because I know, for me, without adaptive sports, I would’ve been lost.”
She tells anyone who may still be in that dark place to not be scared of getting out of their comfort zone.
“Don’t be scared to try something new because in all honesty, rather you win or lose, you’re able to push yourself and bounce back and that’s what it’s really about,” she said.
(Follow Shannon Collins on Twitter: @CollinsDoDNews)